My has assumed her role as our Executive Director with confidence and resolve that make us feel like she’s been here longer than just a year.
Leading with Integrity
By Diane Sigel, Chair & Lisa Acree, Vice Chair
May 31, 2021Reading Time: 4 minutes
As one of Shadhika’s staff recently said, “This past year has been like white-water rafting in a fog.” I’m sure many of you felt that same sense of not knowing what was ahead yet knowing you had to move forward. In any organization, just as in white-water rafting, there must always be someone who provides guidance and encouragement to get to the end goal. From the very beginning of My Lo Cook’s leadership at Shadhika in May 2020, she not only kept us going, but she and her team adapted in new ways, relying more deeply on the voices and wisdom of Shadhika’s partners in India, showing that compassion is the only way forward. My leaned into what is most important–our values–and the members of the Shadhika team were right there with her, despite their own personal loss and stress. With her singular vision, courage, perseverance, and moral compass, My is steering Shadhika on a path to truly live our feminist and anti-colonialist values.
Can you imagine coming on as a new Executive Director of an international organization and immediately having to rethink how virtually everything was done because of a global pandemic? In a time like no other, My assured our values of transparency, community, equality, opportunity, and respect remained at the forefront of our practices of governance, operations, and grant making. Quarterly roundtables were held with our partners for us to listen deeply and to ask for feedback before making major programmatic changes. Shadhika raised close to $30,000 in COVID-19 Emergency Funds and revised the grant making due diligence for our Supports for Success programs to provide maximum flexibility with unrestricted funds, as well as offering flexibility for our Scholars whose education was disrupted. Our When She Leads series gave frontline workers and program participants the opportunity to tell their stories of collective impact in their own words. Flexible work schedules were offered to accommodate the diverse needs of our individual staff members in India and the U.S. during the pandemic. These changes will remain moving forward.
Members of Shadhika’s board have never met My in person. She has not met a single Shadhika partner nor the staff in India. She has met very few donors face to face. Yet her connection with all of us is powerful. She has guided us with no blueprint available while keeping the interest of the young women of India as her North Star. My has assumed her role as our Executive Director with confidence and resolve that make us feel like she’s been here longer than just a year. Her background working on difficult, entrenched human rights issues and the staff’s embracing a new leader during a very demanding time not only kept Shadhika’s work going but elevated it. Despite the physical distance, we believe My, our staff, the board, the partners and program participants in India, and our supporters have formed a more connected community over the past year. We are all dedicated to the same thing: a world where girls and young women have the agency, opportunity, and resources to thrive.